100th Infantry Battalion
Reflections and Observations
"I think [friendship is] one of the biggest, the best things you learn. When you belong to a group like this, you can't help but make friends like this.
Somehow, because you belong to that group, you have that camaraderie feeling, where you're friends automatically. I think you get to develop that sense by being in the service or in a group like the 100th or 442nd. I think that's the truth, no matter what unit."
100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Club
When I first came to Honolulu, I looked around and I knew more of the 442nd K Company boys than I knew of the 100th. As I told you, I was a replacement to the 100th, I didn't know everybody there, except by names I heard.
So the K Company guys came to me and we started talking and I was very active in the K Company group at one time. But after a year or so, I thought to myself, what the heck? I only know them as friends. But I fought with the 100th Battalion in combat. So why shouldn't I be more active in the 100th and get to know the guys better? So that's how I started to go into the 100th and got to know the people, gradually. In fact, took me years before I knew the names of a lot of the guys.
But you know who they are because you've heard of them while in the front line. You heard of a certain guy, oh yeah, he's from first platoon and you're from second platoon, for instance. But gradually, you get to know the person.
Today, I like to say that I know a lot of them on a first-name basis. But they're going too fast for me anyway. We lost about forty-something last year, thirty-something the other year. Every year, not less than thirty.
To me, [the World War II experience] meant a hell of a lot. Of course, I don't know if the war was the thing but to be able to go in the army and be a part of the 100th Battalion coming back - somehow, I feel that it changed my lifestyle, in a way.
I don't know if the war had anything to do but it gave me incentive to do things, like to be able to raise my family properly. Even if I didn't have that educated type of income to help, I was willing to work extra hours and all that.
But somehow, you have that "you hate to be left behind" attitude. You want to be up ahead with the gang, providing your kids whatever you can to go to college, that type of thing where you don't want to be the one falling behind and all your friends are going ahead. You want to be able to keep up with your friends.
Somehow, I don't know if the war had anything to do or the army life but I felt that it gave you the attitude that you don't want to lose.
To me, life is a competition, like. I think you kind of learn that in the service. Not realizing that you're twenty, twenty-one. Being in the service makes you grow up a little bit. It makes a man out of you. You don't stay a child all the rest of your life. In the service, you going to have to be aggressive in a way. You've got to be ahead of the guys, weaker guys all the time, on the life level. You don't want to be left behind.
Somehow, I had that attitude where I see all my friends are getting ahead. Well, what the hell am I doing back here, that type of attitude. So you try your best and what is our best at that time? We thought the education. Working harder. If you had the education, your best is no limit. You go to college and be a doctor, or anything, or any kind of profession. Even an accountant or psychologist, there's no limit to where you end up. But without education, you have a limit. There's a limit you reach and to be able to exceed the limit, you're going to have to try harder, work harder than most of the guys. I think the army sort of taught you that attitude of not being left behind.
Frankly speaking, I never had that feeling that I accomplished something. My feeling is that I went through all this life as an average guy. Did my share serving in the army, went to combat with the 100th. But all the rest of the things are not something where it gave you the feeling that you really accomplished something, except that you were glad to be with the rest of the guys that did everything normal, to me.
And that normal is - like when I read in the paper, eighty-three-year-old guy dies, and no obituary about him even serving in the service. To me, I figure, chee, what was he doing when he was able to volunteer? The same age as me, you know. So in a sense, he may have had a good reason.
But to me, I felt that I was real fortunate that I went in the service, came back alive. Like this fella, now he has no stories to talk about. No clubhouse where he can go and just chew the fat and be one of the guys. I think that has a lot to do. I've heard and known of guys that went in the war with us but they didn't do anything. Today, he never shows up at the clubhouse. Why? Because he don't feel as though he accomplished everything that he should have, with the rest of the guys.
See, like I can say I'm not the bravest guy out, but I can say I followed the leader. Wherever we were told to go, I went. My personal feeling is, I really don't think I did accomplish something to talk about, in a sense.
I think [friendship is] one of the biggest, the best things you learn. Friends. In fact, I still have breakfast every month with the K Company boys. We go down to Zippy's, and chew the fat, and talk about old times. But when you belong to a group like this, you can't help but make friends like this. Every time you go to the clubhouse, you see a new face and you start talking to 'em. You know, funny thing is, when you go to the clubhouse, you assume that that person is a fellow veteran, whether you know him or not. It's easy to talk to that person. To just jump in and chew the fat and joke and laugh about it. Laugh at what he's got to say, and we all laugh at each other.
But, somehow, because you belong to that group, you have that camaraderie feeling, where you're friends automatically. I think you get to develop that sense by being in the service or in a group like the 100th or 442nd. I think that's the truth, no matter what unit. Look at any kind of news article. The marines stick together, they're all like one bunch of comrades, no matter what.
The Experience of War
Well, to me, war - I think you use the word "war" in the wrong sense a lot of times. War is - for instance, I read an article just not too long ago. You don't go to war with a country just to teach them something. Like, of course, this was the recent thing but you don't go to war to teach them democracy. But somehow, war, I don't know if war ever was a good thing. Every war, there was disaster. You know, there's a good saying, "To the victor remains the spoils." Something like that. That's part of the truth. No matter who, where you go to win - you take Iraq, today, for instance. What they going to do after they come back? It's going to be a damaged country. Nothing but damaged buildings, dead people. What are you going to do with that? War was never good. I don't think I can say there should never be war. That's inevitable, there'll be war until I'm dead. Or more than beyond my death. But I don't think that's a good thing to have.
To me, it takes two to tango. That's exactly what it is. Yeah, I wish today, the United States would have the guts to say enough is enough, stop it. What good are we doing, actually? So we teach them democracy, do they know what democracy means? They never experienced democracy until they heard the word recently.
Stanley Akita's interview courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Stanley Akita.